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In Gela the most innovative biorefinery in Europe

The plant processes used vegetable and cooking oils, animal fats, algae and waste to produce high quality biofuels.

The biorefinery

Launched in August 2019, the plant has a processing capacity of up to 750,000 tonnes a year and will be able to treat larger and larger quantities of used vegetable and frying oil, animal fats, algae and waste/advanced by-products to produce high-quality biofuels. A total of more than 360 million euros has so far been spent on the conversion of the refinery and the ancillaries units. In March 2021, 18 months after the bio-refinery was opened, the new Biomass Treatment Unit (BTU) begins production, allowing up to 100% of raw material waste to be used for biofuel production, to create a zero-kilometre circular economy model for the production of biodiesel, bio-naphtha, bioLPG and bio-jet. Castor oil will also be used to feed the Gela biorefinery, thanks to an experimental project to grow castor plants on semi-desert land in Tunisia, thereby completely replacing palm oil, which will no longer be used in Eni's production processes from 2023. The plant’s construction began in early 2020 and despite slowdowns caused by the management of activities during the pandemic, the vast majority of the project was completed on schedule. 1.3 million hours were worked, with zero accidents for both Eni people and contract workers.

Our bio-refinery in Gela is designed for treating advanced and unconventional loads up to 100% of processing capacity. It is one of the few bio-refineries in the world with such high operating flexibility. Gela is defined by its ability to process "unconventional" second-generation raw material from food production waste, regenerated used cooking oil (RUCO), animal fats (tallow) and by-products from processing vegetable oil.  This makes it an innovative plant with high environmental sustainability that can process loads that would otherwise be disposed of as waste – to the cost of the community and the environment – using them instead for biofuel.

In the 2020 the volumes of biofuels processed from vegetable oil were more than doubled from the corresponding period of 2019  (0.71 mm tonnes were more than doubled from 2019 with an increase of 0.40 mm tonnes, driven by the production ramp-up at Gela biorefinery). In the same year reached full operation at Gela biorefinery, with a five-fold increase in biofuel productions compared to 2019.

The environmental impact

Building the bio-refinery guarantees improvement in all environmental fields, emitting more than 70% fewer emissions (of SO2, NOx, CO and dust) than traditional production cycles. We will be doing a variety of things to improve the visual aspect of the site. The skyline of the industrial area will gradually improve with the planned decommissioning of the old oil refining facilities, including the demolition of the SNOX stack. In the first phase, lasting three years, all twenty hectares of disused areas on the site will be dismantled and repurposed. We will also remove debris and structures on the seabed, stretching 500 m along each side of the pier.

The Ecofining plant

To create the Ecofining™ plant, we modified the two existing desulphuration units and built a steam reforming unit to produce hydrogen. Hydrogen is a basic ingredient in hydrogenated vegetable oil (HVO), the biodiesel that, when added to fossil diesel at 15%, makes the premium fuel Enidiesel.

The Waste-to-Fuel plant

In addition to the new biorefinery, the Gela site is also home to the Waste-to-Fuel pilot plant. Transforming organic waste into water and bio-oil since December 2018, the plant and can also extract biomethane. Eni Rewind, the environmental company of the Eni group, invested over 3 million euros in the construction and commissioning of the pilot plant. Eni Rewind will lead the industrial development and management of waste-to-fuel plants across Italy in a joint venture with Cassa Depositi e Prestiti (CDP), as per an MoU signed by Eni and CDP on 12 March 2019.